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from the ashes

In this photo released by the RCMP, workers build a temporary dike to contain water near Slake Lake, Alta. on Saturday July 11, 2011.The Canadian Press

They've already endured a raging wildfire and are now faced with a flood, but residents of Slave Lake, Alta., are staying positive.

Fire Chief Jamie Coutts said the fire that scorched a third of the town in May was harder to deal with because there was little volunteers could do at the time.

He said it was a different situation this weekend as volunteers battling floodwaters gathered to reinforce a dike on the Sawridge Creek.

"Unlike the fire where it's dangerous and we had a hard time finding jobs for everybody, this one, it's filling sandbags," Chief Coutts said.

"They took turns, they told jokes and told stories. So although you're trying to make sure another terrible thing doesn't happen, I think the mood was a little better because people were able to help out."

The dike had been damaged during a surge in the creek a week before, Chief Coutts explained. Normally, he said, the town would have a year to fix the damage.

But then it started raining heavily in northwestern Alberta on Thursday and it kept on pouring through Friday. Suddenly, the town that was in the midst of rebuilding from the fire - and had also hosted a surprise royal visit on Wednesday - was forced to fix its dike in a day.

The town put out a call for volunteers on its website. A call on Facebook went out, too.

"Next thing we knew, we had over a hundred people helping," Chief Coutts said.

Saturday brought some good news for the town's residents.

According to the Alberta government, the water level on the Sawridge Creek was dropping, although a high streamflow advisory for the creek was still in effect.

Town crews worked overnight Friday to pump water out of flood-affected areas in the community, Chief Coutts said, adding that it hadn't rained since.

"The water's gone down a couple of metres from where it was yesterday," Chief Coutts said on Saturday of the Sawridge Creek. "It's looking good today as long as it doesn't rain."

The Red Cross was assisting some five dozen residents whose homes had flooded. On Friday, the agency helped them find hotel rooms or get groceries, hygiene kits and cleanup supplies.

Leila Daoud, a Canadian Red Cross spokeswoman, said only one additional person sought assistance from the agency on Saturday.

Most of the people who've been forced from their homes because of flooding are being put up in hotels or are staying with friends or relatives, she said.

Flood warnings have been issued for a number of rivers in northern Alberta, and the province warned that some low-lying and agricultural land was expected to flood.

RCMP advised campers at the O'Brien Park provincial recreation area near Grande Prairie to evacuate due to the rising Wapiti River.

Ms. Daoud said Red Cross response teams are standing by, ready to deploy at a moment's notice if problems develop.

"There's been a lot of rain," she said.

Saturday's dry weather near Slave Lake helped reopen some highways that were closed due to high water, said RCMP Constable Stuart Kirkpatrick. Highway 2 east of Slave Lake, which connects the town with Edmonton, was operational Saturday.

But Constable Kirkpatrick said the same highway west of Slave Lake was closed and Highway 88 that goes north from the town had a sinkhole and remained shut.

Slave Lake received international attention earlier this week when Prince William and his wife Catherine visited the community on short-notice Wednesday. They took in the fire zone and met with area residents, hoping to boost morale.

Close to 400 homes and businesses were destroyed in the May blaze.